U.S.M.E.F.: Taiwan's action lacks scientific basis

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – Taiwan’s legislature recently passed an amendment to its food sanitation law that will ban the import of all ground beef and offals from the U.S., as well as any country that has had a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (B.S.E.) case, for a period of 10 years from that country’s most recent case.

The legislature also approved a resolution to restrict U.S. beef imports to products derived from cattle less than 30 months of age, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation. While this resolution is nonbinding, Taiwan may implement changes to its import requirements that reflect the resolution’s intent.
 
“The action taken by Taiwan’s legislature is very disappointing and has no scientific basis whatsoever,” said Philip Seng, U.S.M.E.F. president and chief executive. “Before expanding beef trade with the U.S. in October of last year, Taiwan's best scientists determined the safety of U.S. beef through a thorough and extensive risk assessment. That effort has now been largely cast aside, as this policy shows no regard for O.I.E. guidelines or the controlled risk status held by both the U.S. and Taiwan with regard to B.S.E.”

Mr. Seng added the blanket inclusion of ground beef and offals in this action is inappropriate on several levels. There are no scientific concerns related to B.S.E. regarding ground beef and offals as they are produced according to the same rigorous food safety regulations as other U.S. beef products, he said.
The action by Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan will ban the importation of skulls, brains, eyes, spinal cord, offals and ground beef from the U.S. and any country that has had a case of B.S.E. until the 10th anniversary of that case. Of the three cases identified in the U.S., the latest was found March 15, 2006.

However, neither action taken by the Taiwan legislature prohibits boneless or bone-in muscle cuts from under-30-month cattle. Since the new beef trade protocol between the U.S. and Taiwan was adopted in October, suppliers from the U.S. have voluntarily excluded ground beef and offal, limiting their shipments to under-30-month muscle cuts. So recent actions by Taiwan’s parliament should not disrupt existing orders for U.S. beef.

“The recent addition of under-30-month bone-in cuts has allowed us to grow this market to some degree, and to satisfy the needs of more of our customers in Taiwan,” Mr. Seng said. “While we now face nonscientific trade barriers that will hamper our ability to expand the range of U.S. products in this market over the long term, we want to assure consumers in Taiwan we will continue to provide them with safe, high-quality U.S. beef.”


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